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The original French musical sensation. The timeless story of struggle and salvation. Translated, directed, and produced in Rwanda.
The original French musical sensation. The timeless story of struggle and salvation. Translated, directed, and produced in Rwanda.
139 backers pledged $5,429 to help bring this project to life.

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The Ten Commandments: A Musical

$5,429

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Why The Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments is not just the tale of the Hebrews' exodus from slavery in the land of Egypt, and it's not just a Bible story. At its core, it is a tragic and uplifting saga of dignity and human suffering, duty and salvation, social injustice and human rights, liberty and the rule of law. It is a story so many people grow up hearing. It cuts across cultures and religions. It is one of the foundational texts of our shared human history. And it is eminently relatable.

For a place such as Rwanda, that experienced man's cruelty towards man in a most horrifying way not so long ago, these themes take on a new urgency and relevance. Set against a beautiful musical score, this theatrical retelling makes the familiar story of Moses and The Ten Commandments come alive, bringing Rwandan audiences together around a shared musical experience unlike anything that’s been done in Kigali before.

Press coverage of The Ten Commandments: A Musical in Rwanda!
Press coverage of The Ten Commandments: A Musical in Rwanda!

But why in Rwanda?

Picture the setting: a tiny and beautiful African country, lush with vegetation, teeming with wildlife, affectionately named "the land of a thousand hills" for its endless horizon of cloud-topped peaks and ancient volcanoes, the backdrop for Dian Fossey's work with the majestic mountain gorilla...ravaged by a devastating genocide that left the country in ruins while the entire world watched.

A completely typical drive in lush, verdant, hilly Rwanda. Photo credit: Tyler Nelson.
A completely typical drive in lush, verdant, hilly Rwanda. Photo credit: Tyler Nelson.

Today, 19 years after the indelible 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda is a changed country. The streets are safe, tourism is again thriving, and the world is increasingly seeing Rwanda as a place for business and investment. In fact, Rwanda is considered an outlier in the region for its clean streets, good roads, accessible healthcare, and an almost uncharacteristic absence of the kind of crime and corruption that plague its neighboring countries. That's quite a way to go in 19 years.

Another completely typical drive in Rwanda. But that aluminum structure in the background is not alien technology -- it is a camp for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a reminder of the conflict from long ago.
Another completely typical drive in Rwanda. But that aluminum structure in the background is not alien technology -- it is a camp for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a reminder of the conflict from long ago.

But development is more than staffing hospitals and building schools. Civil society also matters, perhaps even more so, and the real indicator of the health of a country is the happiness of its people. That is just where this project, The Ten Commandments: A Musical, comes in.

Kigali is a city that desperately needs the arts. Although Rwandan culture is steeped in song, dance, and a tradition of oral storytelling, there are few outlets to harness the creative energy that courses through the people here. On a typical day in Kigali, there is very little to do in the way of theater, entertainment, music, or art. And when there's an exhibition or a show of any kind, it seems the entire city, starved for the arts, flocks to see it.

By supporting this project, you be inspiring a renaissance of arts and creativity in this beautiful African city. This will be huge, and when something goes big, more always follows.

Ok, tell me more.

Les Dix Commandements is a French musical written by Pascal Obispo in 2000 that met the French public to great critical acclaim. It was subsequently made into Italian and Spanish versions – but not into English, to my great chagrin.*

DVD cover of the original musical by Pascal Obispo
DVD cover of the original musical by Pascal Obispo

The source material is excellent. The story of Moses is timeless, as much a part of our cultural history as birthdays and Santa Claus. We can all relate to it, whether because the spiritual topic touches us, or because watching Charlton Heston say “Let my people go!” on television is a favorite Passover tradition, or simply because the themes of slavery, struggle, and deliverance are still relevant today.

I was a theater geek growing up. But as immersed as I was in musical theater, I had never been so in the grips of a show as I was in Les Dix Commandements. I knew I had to share this musical with English-speaking audiences. I translated the French libretto into English and set it to the original musical score. I tried to do justice to the beautiful lyrics with a translation that was careful and poetic. This is a story that must be told and a musical that must be made. In English, not just in French, Italian, and Spanish. And perhaps eventually, in other languages. It's too beautiful not to expose it for the whole world to see and hear.

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*A short-lived spin-off version did appear in Las Vegas, featuring a woefully miscast Val Kilmer as Moses, but the score and lyrics were completely rewritten and the result is one of those things that happened in Vegas and had better stay in Vegas.*

Is this a faith-based project?

What I love so much about Pascal Obispo's version is that he focused primarily on the humanistic aspects of this classic tale – courage, human dignity, social justice, liberty, and the rule of law – while the Bible story was a vehicle to deliver these central themes to the audience. This is a show that appeals to viewers of many genres – those who come to see a dramatization of one of the great Biblical tales, those who want to be inspired by an epic in which right triumphs over wrong, and those who want to relish in the gorgeous music and the energy of live theater. This is an attempt to bring a beautiful story with an important message of love and redemption to a city starved of the arts.

Why do you need $5,000?

My Kickstarter goal of $5,000 (leaving me with about $4,250 after credit card processing fees, Kickstarter fee, and reward fulfillment) will cover the rehearsal space, stage, lighting design, and sound system, as well as living and travel expenses, during the five months (July-November) I will be focused exclusively on producing this show.

Once I hit my Kickstarter goal, I plan to raise funding from major sponsors (embassies, ministries, individual donors) to cover certain production costs, such as costumes, set design, publicity materials, food and drink during rehearsal, and compensation for key players (choreographer, stage manager, director, actors, etc).

If I am lucky enough to surpass my goal of $5,000, the additional funding will be added toward production expenses, helping me realize an even better show.

Risks and challenges

Live theater on this scale has never been attempted in Kigali before. But this musical is my baby and I will walk through fire to see it finally staged in English.

I'm closer than I've ever been before. And I've given myself ample time to hold auditions, commission sets and costumes, and rehearse the show.

I'll need to find the right talent to pull it off, which may or may not be in abundance here. But I'm optimistic, because if there's something Rwandans know, it's song and dance.

And I will see it staged.

So let it be written, so it shall be done.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thou shalt receive my eternal gratitude. Anything you are able to give tells me that you support my project and want to see it succeed. And I thank you. So much.

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    Thou shalt receive a special shout-out on The Ten Commandments: A Musical's Facebook page.

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    Thou shalt be thanked in the show's program by name, plus all of the above.

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    Thou shalt be thanked by name on stage at showtime by the cast members, plus all of the above.

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    Thou shalt receive a printed copy of the show's program by mail, autographed by the cast and crew, plus all of the above.

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    Thou shalt receive a beautiful signed photograph of the cast in costume, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Thou shalt receive an MP3 recording of one of the songs live from the show, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Thou shalt receive a CD of the entire live cast recording, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Thou shalt receive receive a DVD of the show in Kigali, be named Associate Producer, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Well, blimey! Ten rewards for ten commandments, huh?

    Thou shalt receive a privately-commissioned, completely unique painting by a Rwandan artist inspired by the themes of this musical.

    Plus, all of the above.

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Funding period

- (30 days)